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The Future of Disability in America
these travelers often revolve around dichotomies that may be misleading—arguing over the role of buses compared with the role of paratransit, for example. Moreover, these debates often focus on some topics at the expense of other equally important issues. For example, there is a legitimate concern about ensuring that people with disabilities receive the services mandated by the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but most of the transportation needs of these travelers are not addressed at all by the ADA. Colored by this perspective, many policy analyses ignore the fact that most travelers with disabilities, as is true for travelers in the world at large, make the majority of their trips in private vehicles and rely heavily on walking to facilitate their use of all modes of travel. A narrow policy focus tends to limit discussions of the barriers to both auto use and pedestrian travel while slighting the connection between transportation programs and other important policy initiatives, from land use planning to human and medical service delivery.
To expand traditional discussions, this paper makes a clear distinction between the kinds of transport services and facilities that are required by regulations or law and those that are required to address the far larger mobility needs of most people with disabilities. This paper not only highlights the value of understanding and enforcing the ADA (and related legislation) but also indicates when and why policy discussions must go beyond a focus on the ADA to address the full spectrum of the needs of travelers with disabilities. The paper also suggests that providing effective mobility options for those with disabilities requires attention to a variety of interrelated policy areas and service delivery models: from how, when, and where medical services are provided to the places where people are able to live.
This paper addresses local ground transportation; beyond its scope are issues of air, sea, and intercity travel for people with disabilities. It has three major sections. The following section gives an overview of the travel patterns of people with disabilities, highlighting the problems that they face with various modes of travel and the crucial role of both walking and private vehicles in their mobility—whether or not they drive. The next major section, the third in this paper, examines the community transportation resources provided to travelers with disabilities by public transportation systems, other public and nonprofit agencies, and the private sector. The final section suggests that more and better accessible transportation is a necessary but not a sufficient resource for overcoming the multiple barriers faced by most people with disabilities. Addressing the transportation needs of such travelers requires active cooperation between transportation planners and those in a number of other policy and program arenas. Relevant personnel range from educators to medical personnel, from employment counselors to urban designers, and from housing remodelers to land use planners.